Jeannette Nijhof: "I dream of a complete Nijhof team at the Olympic Games"

Jeannette Nijhof: "I dream of a complete Nijhof team at the Olympic Games"

"Without breeders and owners, there is no sport. Team Nijhof represents both parties, and they do even more. Meanwhile, five generations of Nijhof have been active in the versatile business in Geesteren. Five generations in a fourfold business. In top sports, horses with the TN suffix are indispensable, even considered very valuable by the coaches of TeamNL. In dressage, things are currently a bit quiet, but they are working on it. CHIO Rotterdam spoke with Jeannette Nijhof.

More than 100 years of TN
Jeannette (58): "We are a true family business. From father to daughter and son and so on, already five generations. All working in the business. Our company consists of a breeding station, a rearing farm, a sports stable, and an animal clinic. Team Nijhof was founded in 1916, so we have been around for over 100 years. Our sports stable consists of 30 horses, ridden by Kars Bonhof and Fabienne Lichtenvoort Cats. Fabienne rides the younger horses, and Kars takes over when they go international. In addition, we always have some horses ridden by riders outside our company. This can be related to co-ownership, exceptional quality of a horse, breeding services, etc. Examples include Maikel van der Vleuten, Willem Greve, and dressage rider Hans Peter Minderhoud. Our company has a total of 600 horses."

Doing what you're good at
"I am the linchpin here. I work seven days a week (laughing) because there are no eight days. And all this while my father didn't want me to be involved with horses. He didn't think his business was suitable for women. That's why I first worked for seven years in various ministries in Den Haag, in the cabinet of your Rotterdam's Ruud Lubbers. I have a 20-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter. My son was good at football but recently hung up his football boots. He now rides horses! That's because of his girlfriend. It's in his genes, so who knows what the future holds. During Corona, my daughter combined her studies and the horses, but now she is focusing on her studies. I started my working life outside of horses, so we'll see how things go. Cameron, my brother Henk Nijhof Jr.'s son, intends to continue our family business. (laughing) I don't ride anymore, and neither does my brother. This is under the mottos 'You must do what you're good at' and 'The best helmsmen are ashore.'"

Dutch feeling
"The first time I came to CHIO Rotterdam was probably in 1997 or 1998. That was as the owner of our stallion Heartbreaker. (laughs) When I think back to that, the first thing that comes to mind is that Mr. Maathuis was very angry with me at the time. I didn't want to sell Heartbreaker and wanted to keep him for sport. He didn't agree with that."

CHIO 2023 most beautiful memory
"Several of our horses have started in Rotterdam. Heartbreaker, Verdi TN, GLOCK’s Johnson TN, Highway TN, Grandorado TN, and Hernandez TN. Last year was, of course, the most beautiful year for us. Highway TN won the Grand Prix with Willem Greve, and in the same class, Hernandez TN came fourth with Kars Bonhof. Such results with two horses from your stable in a Grand Prix at a five-star competition in your own country, it can't get much better than that."

Making it easy for the national coach
Jeannette speaks enthusiastically. Sometimes she stumbles over her own words. We understand by now that she works seven days, her energy is even audible over the phone. We ask if there will be Nijhof horses at Kralingse Bos this year. Jeannette: "I think so. Three of our horses are competing for Team NL for a spot in the Olympic Games in Paris later this year. Grandorado TN, Highway TN, and Hernandez TN. Of course, anything can go wrong, and you're out, but we're going for it. We hope that Willem and Kars ride so well in Rotterdam that they make it easy for the national coach in his selection."

This answer promises something for the next question... We ask Jeannette if she has any dreams. Without any hesitation and again laughing: "Certainly. After previous Olympic Games with TN horses, now going to the Games with a whole Nijhof team. Grandorado TN, Highway TN, and Hernandez TN. And then O’Bailey with Maikel van der Vleuten, who also stands for breeding with us. Although that might be a bit difficult because Willem would have to split himself in two. But part of this dream should be able to come true if things go well. These horses already have the N.O.P. status, and they are among the last six to eight riders in the Olympic Team. The Olympic Games, the most beautiful thing there is. That Orange feeling… I love major championships and the enthusiastic Dutch supporters."

Heartbreaker, Verdi TN, GLOCK’s Johnson TN
Team Nijhof has brought many excellent horses. We ask Jeannette if she has favorites. Jeannette: "That's difficult. We have indeed had many nice, beautiful, and good horses. Still, three stand out. It all started with Heartbreaker; he is extra special. In addition, we went to the Olympic Games with Verdi TN and GLOCK’s Johnson TN, completing my top three."

Successor in the pipeline
"Now we have a set of very good young horses in the stable. In the rhythm of our current top horses, they are being trained, and I think that in three to four years, we will have a few ready for the 1.60m level again. Yes, you can confidently mention that the succession of our current top horses is coming. We constantly work on that in our stable. We have three groups of horses: the youngsters, the top sport horses, and the retirees. In everything, we are constantly working on improvement."

Promising dressage stallion
Jeannette enthusiastically talks about Team Nijhof's jumping stars. We ask her about the dressage branch. Jeannette, honestly: "That is currently a bit less. But we are always looking; for a good dressage stallion, the stable is always open. We have a very nice three-year-old stallion that has just been approved and has also become the reserve champion in Westfalen. It is a descendant of the stallion Bonds, and now we will see how he performs under saddle."

Sport and breeding go hand in hand
We enjoy Jeannette's enthusiasm. We ask her to conclude the conversation herself, and here she doesn't hesitate either. Jeannette: "We have a beautiful company here where we work with great pleasure every day. I love being Dutch, I love orange. I also love breeding. It's a double pleasure for us; sport and breeding go hand in hand. This is what we want to convey to riders and breeders. For example, when Highway TN won the Grand Prix in Rotterdam last year with Willem Greve. We as owners are happy, our rider is happy, but also breeders who bred with our stallion are happy because the offspring of such a horse then get attention and become more valuable."

Jeannette Nijhof. Entrepreneur, but certainly also a horsewoman. In heart and soul. Someone who makes it possible for us to organize beautiful competitions in Rotterdam and for Team NL to continue competing for medals in horse sports year after year. Thanks for all of this, Jeannette and the team, and also for this conversation.